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100% Renewable Electricity to Power the World by 2050? It's Happening, Study Says
By Alex Kirby
If you think a world powered by 100 percent renewable electricity—and significantly cheaper than today's—is an impossible dream, there's a surprise in store for you. A new study says it's already in the making.
A global transition to 100 percent renewable electricity, far from being a long-term vision, is happening now, the study says. It is the work of Finland's Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the Energy Watch Group (EWG), and was published at the UN climate change conference, COP23, which is meeting here.
The authors say a global electricity system based entirely on renewable energy will soon be feasible day in, day out, at every moment throughout the year, and would be more cost-effective than the existing system, based largely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
Current renewable energy potential and technologies, crucially including storage to guarantee a constant power supply, can generate sufficient secure power to meet the entire world's electricity demand by 2050, they argue. With political backing it could happen even sooner.
The total levelized cost of electricity—roughly, the average cost—for 100 percent renewable electricity in 2050 would be €52/MWh (approximately $68/MWh), compared with €70/MWh (approximately $92/MWh) in 2015.
There is no silver bullet in their approach. Their model—the first of its kind, they say—simply simulates the most efficient energy supply with an optimal mix of technologies and locally available renewable resources.
A transition to 100 percent renewables would bring greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector down to zero and drastically reduce total losses in power generation. It would create 36 million jobs by 2050, the study says, 17 million more than the sector has today.
"There is no reason to invest one more dollar in fossil fuel or nuclear power production," said EWG president Hans-Josef Fell. "Renewable energy provides cost-effective power supply.
"All plans for further expansion of coal, nuclear, gas and oil must be stopped. More investment needs to be channelled into renewable energies and the necessary infrastructure . Everything else will lead to unnecessary costs and increasing global warming."
"A full decarbonization of the electricity system by 2050 is possible for lower system cost than today, based on available technology. Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will," said Christian Breyer, lead author of the study and professor of solar economy at LUT.
His last point has been made many times already. Nearly five years ago researchers said Australia could by 2023 rely entirely on renewable energy—if it could summon up enough political will.
In 2014 another study said it was only a lack of political determination that was preventing the world switching away from fossil fuels altogether. And earlier this year, in one of his last presidential statements, Barack Obama said he believed the U.S. was engaged in an "irreversible shift" to clean energy.
The world population is expected to grow from 7.3 to 9.7 billion people this century. Global electricity demand is likely to double by mid-century, from 24,310 TWh in 2015 to around 48,800 TWh by 2050. Because of their rapidly falling costs, solar photovoltaic (PV) power and battery storage increasingly drive most of the electricity system.
Global greenhouse gas emissions would be significantly reduced, the study says, from about 11 GtCO2eq in 2015 to zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, as the total LCOE of the power system declines.
The losses in a 100 percent renewable electricity system are around 26 percent of total electricity demand, compared with the current system in which about 58 percent of the primary energy input is lost.
The study is a challenge for policymakers and politicians, the authors say, as it refutes an argument frequently used by critics of renewable fuels—that they cannot provide a full energy supply on an uninterruptible basis.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.